SALT LAKE CITY — Todd Whitcomb's daily commute to and from work is not what it used to be thanks to Salt Lake City's bike share program.
Primarily, Whitcomb rides GREENbike for added convenience.
"It's a lot faster than driving your car downtown. Finding parking can be a pain sometimes," he said. "Having the bike makes it easier to make the decision not to drive to work. It's good because everything you need downtown is within a bike ride's distance."
Oftentimes it's the physical activity that makes riding enjoyable, Whitcomb said.
"I like that I can get a little exercise, a little outside time when I go get lunch," he said.
GREENbike has gained popularity with more riders than city officials anticipated when the program was launched in April last year. The program started with 10 bike share stations and 55 bikes and has grown to include 20 stations and 160 bikes.
City officials are still trying to keep up with the demand from riders, according to Downtown Alliance spokesman Nick Como.
"The usage has exceeded all of our expectations in barely a year," Como said. "I think with the fun factor and the efficiency of the short, quick trips, a bike is the best tool to get around the city for that purpose."
Last year, 6,100 people made 26,000 trips on the bikes, according to a survey. Ridership was split evenly between Salt Lake County residents, commuters from the Wasatch Front, and tourists.
Most riders were at least 24 years one, and about 25 percent of them said GREENbike was their first experience using a bike for transportation, according to the report. Most of those surveyed said they would use bike share more often if there were more bike lanes and bike share stations.
GREENbike Director Ben Bolte said he hopes to have 100 bike share stations spread throughout downtown by 2020.
"We've found that people want a station right in front of where their destination is or where they are," Bolte said. "We just want to stay on track with what we've been hitting so far. The numbers just keep going up."
Riders pay $5 for a 24-hour pass or $75 for an annual membership, but most of the nonprofit program's cost of operation is covered by city funds and grants from public and private agencies, Bolte said.
This month, GREENbike has installed eight new bike share stations in the downtown area:
• 190 S. 400 East, near the CityScape Apartments
• 300 South and 300 East
• 200 S. West Temple, near the Salt Palace Convention Center
• 640 W. North Temple
• 150 W. 500 South, near the Sheraton Hotel
• 450 S. 150 East, near the Salt Lake City and County Building
• 136 S. Main
• 50 W. 300 South, on the median
Such growth is one step closer to improving air quality, though it's not always foremost on people's minds when they choose to ride, Bolte said.3 comments on this story
"I firmly believe that the only way real change occurs is that you have to kind of trick people into doing the thing you want them to do," he said. "So we created this program that's faster than getting around downtown if you had to walk or drive, and it's a lot more fun than both. But the side effect is we get less people making trips in single-occupant vehicles and better air."
Last year, riders traveled more than 54,000 miles on the bikes, he said.
Whitcomb said added convenience was one of several reasons he was pleased to see more of the lime-green bikes with baskets on the road.
"Now that there's more GREENbikes, I get less 'nice bike' comments from people that are driving by," Whitcomb said. "You can't have too much pride, I think, to ride the GREENbike."